I recently had the pleasure of meeting Ammerah Saidi in person. While some of you may be old hands at directly interacting with other Cats, I thought it important to share the general flavor of that meeting with those who may not yet have had such an experience.
I took the first shot at the joint effort that follows, and hoping Ammerah would be willing to join in, I asked her for input. What follows is a series of alternating comments about our meeting. I push, and Ammerah pushes back.
When the opportunity to meet a Catalyst face-to-face over coffee at a nearby café arose, I looked forward to talking with a professional educator. I expected we would have a great deal in common – we did. I also expected we would have great differences – we did.
> It was my learning of his work as a police officer in Detroit that piqued my interest. Anyone who could help me understand the city and community I try to serve is someone I can’t afford NOT to meet. When he agreed to a coffee chat, I couldn’t have been more elated–saved me a trip waiting outside his home :-p
Since my ‘real learning’ is always a retrospective event, I wonder, “What the heck was that about?”
> My learning is an overwhelming pre-reflection (pumping myself up), meta-process of analysis (intentional listening and analysis) and post-reflection (Oh! I should have asked him this…).
1. First of all, it was an energy exchange. From the philosophical point of view of a number of Elders from Canada, the primary basis of one’s economic focus can be determined by identifying what res you/I exchange our energies for. I found the exchange significant for our both having put forth our energies. I felt energized rather than weakened afterward; I have little idea what my Co-Coffee Cat experienced, but hope her experience was of a similar nature.
> I couldn’t wait to get back into the office to update my colleagues on the perspective I had just gained on a disenfranchised community that I knew very little about beyond the mainstream Native American narrative I believe we’re mostly fed. “He worked here and here and here….” “He was shocked to learn this that and this….” “It’s just like my own experience as…..” Needless to say, interest was piqued in myself and my audience.
2. We are both ‘others’ to the mainstream by way of our phenotypes and psycho-spiritual/religious foundations, and we seemed to be in agreement about a number of ‘power’ issues.
> I seemed to be, very early on, blessed with a circle of adults who made me conscious of these power issues and didn’t shelter me from knowing–you’re different and this is why… My partner had to experience some surprises later in life that sounded like they stopped him dead in his tracks…yet, he had known it all along.
3. We are ‘others’ to one another by way of our phenotypes and psycho-spiritual/religious foundations, and our biological sexes, ages (almost a generational spread) and respective class standing (she paid for my coffee, if that provides you a hint).
> It would have been insulting to my heritage and upbringing not to pay for someone’s drink/meal after having gifted me with such valuable insight and learnings! I may have paid in dollars but he paid in wisdom and experience.
4. Last, but certainly not least, it was a learning experience.
I learned of my need to:
Talk with a greater number of younger persons – maybe there is hope.
> It jolted me to hear some not so hopeful interpretations of classroom struggles when in my mind, struggles are fertile soil for opportunity.
Be more aware that times change – curiosity about the experiences of those who are invisible to most ‘Americans’ (that is, the Natives), may not be a sign of overt threat as in days gone by and that I should place less reliance on professional standing as a disguise.
> I need to constantly remind myself that I’m standing on the shoulders of visible and invisible giants. And when an invisible giant is colored in for me, I am all the more empowered to move forward more effectively and empathetically.
Time flies when you are having fun – I did not get to ask nearly as many questions as had packed my mind before the meeting (maybe next time).
> Victorious, I walked away with so many of questions answer. But a loser forever, those answers only fueled my infinite pool of questions for our next coffee chat.
I learned, once again, that those most in need of ‘a good education’ are not the downtrodden or even those at the top, but those of the mythic ‘middle class’.
> I pushed back–although everyone deserves a quality education, I know my impact and influence are best activated when contextualized within the communities that do not have to theorize on unfair power structures—they live them and are quick to fight against them.
I’m looking forward to having more coffee – next time I’ll buy.
> I’d like to see him try :-)
And with that, I guess I’ll say, “Peace out” (or is that too retro these days?)